Witnessing Tips – “Student Role” Teaching
Preaching the gospel to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons presents problems to the Christian that are often times more difficult than normal witnessing situations. Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught not to listen to Christians who are obviously trying to teach them. Since these cultists believe they already have the truth, they think that there is nothing to gain by listening to Christians. There is a way to reach out to Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons, but it is in a way opposite to conventional wisdom.
As Christians, we are familiar with the style of leadership that Jesus made famous. Many popular Bible teachers have coined this style “Servant/Leadership.” Jesus, the greatest leader ever, taught us that if we really want to be great in the Kingdom of God, we must first learn how to serve. Matthew 23:11 states, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” This leadership style may seem contradictory to those devoid of the Holy Spirit, and yet still difficult to practice by those who understand its principles. In the same way, teaching, while remaining in the student role, is equally complex and appears paradoxical.
We have received a number of e-mail requests for help in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witness. One key word of advice is that Christians need to learn how to remain in the student role while witnessing to Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons. This method is similar to how the renowned philosopher Socrates taught his students. He was one of the first to teach his students by asking a series of questions. A good explanation of the Socratic method is found on the GoodCharacter.com web site.
The Socratic method derives from the Socratic Dialogues of Plato, in which Socrates made people jump through intellectual hoops trying to defend a “truth.” He would ask a progression of seemingly innocent questions that ultimately led the respondent to a logical conclusion that was incompatible with that person’s originally stated belief. (Emphasis in the original)
It is very important that the person to whom we are witnessing comes to their own conclusions. If we give them an answer to the questions we are asking, then they can easily discount it because it is our answer and not theirs. If they never take ownership of the conclusion, they will never be troubled enough to seriously question what they believe.
After receiving our advice, F.E. in Canada wrote, “The biggest problem I have with letting them be in the teacher role is how to respond to their points without seeming argumentative or conceding.” Our response to F.E was as follows.
“That is a tough one. I’ve actually had people tell me they were offended when they realized that the Jehovah’s Witness truly thought they could convince them of becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. Hey, let them think what they want. If the Jehovah’s Witness thinks that you are on the verge of becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, then they surely don’t think you are an opposer. (The term “opposer” is used by Jehovah’s Witness to describe people who are in disagreement with and oppose the teachings of the Watchtower) If they don’t view you as a threat, then you can get them to think even more. It always pricks at our pride to think that a Jehovah’s Witness could actually be right on any given argument. Conceding points isn’t easy, but it must be done. You’ve got to pick your battles.
If you must win every point, then you have already become argumentative and are in danger of losing them. Being right is important, but not at the expense of being viewed as unreasonable. We must strive to be right and reasonable at the same time.”
F.E. wrote again.
“Hi again: Thanks for your insights. Would you be able to give me an example of how your wife’s book study (or are they doing an actual Bible study?) goes? We are probably going to start going through the ‘What Does the Bible Really Teach’ book with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Our response; “When a Jehovah’s Witness says they are doing a Bible study, they are really studying one of the publications of the Watchtower. Becky and her Jehovah’s Witnesses started on the ‘Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life’ book and have shifted to the ‘What Does the Bible Really Teach’ book. I would suggest that you do what Becky did. She read the whole publication cover to cover by herself. She did this for a number of reasons:
1) It shows that she is really interested in studying with them.
2) The Jehovah’s Witness can’t tell her that the next chapter will answer her questions since she has already read it.
3) Since she has already read the whole book, she knows what the book covers and what it does not. She is able direct her questions to its weak areas.
4) Becky and the Jehovah’s Witness spend MUCH less time reading the remedial material from the Watchtower and more time talking about it.
5) It places more of a burden on the Jehovah’s Witness to find answers to Becky’s questions rather than just relying on the information from their book.
6) Since she has already read the book, they are able to spend more time in the Bible and less time in the Watchtower publications.
7) If the Jehovah’s Witness can’t find an answer to her questions from the publications, they will understand her refusal to buy into what they are teaching. In this way she does not come across as being argumentative or unreasonable.”
The above seven reasons are just some of the benefits that can be gained from reading the entire Watchtower publication shortly after it is given to you.
Although the above was written specifically for Christians witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses, this information can be applied to Mormons as well. It is important to get the Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon to a place where they are questioning their belief system without viewing you as an enemy to their faith. Questioning their dearly held beliefs is not encouraged by their leaders and is certainly not comfortable for the individual person to whom you are witnessing. This fact alone is enough to confirm to Christians that we need to be careful in our witness. We are already at a disadvantage with Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons in the sense that they believe that they are the true Christians and that we are either apostates or of the devil. We must take great care in dealing with these people and use sound tactics that will not unnecessarily close their minds to a potentially fruitful conversation before it even begins.